Review by Judith Robinson
Most Canadians have played hockey on a lonely road—making friendships, developing rivalries, even forming romances. Playwrights Gary Kirkham’s and Lea Daniel’s Pocket Rocket traces a friendship between five road hockey players over a twenty-year period starting in 1967—on a stretch of road that could be anywhere in Canada. All the essential elements of Canadian culture are displayed – accessibility to immigrants, a desire to have fun and cut loose; the need to help each other when times get rough; a trace of bigotry, sexism and homophobia, shyness, and a reluctance toward self-revelation. Photo montage by Tom Vogel
There’s a power in this story. By the end of the second act, the audiences’ eyes are wet with tears – because the character’s journeys include segments of everyone’s life. All of us have been through parts of the story aptly presented on stage.
The set is the same for all three sections (the playwrights call them acts. But there are only two acts in the show) —a road where the same group of five actors gather to play road hockey – at three different age groups: -fourteen, twenty-eight, and forty-two.
The plot sneaks up on you. At first, it seems like a light piece of fluff, fourteen-year-olds fighting over whether they can play as Montreal Canadians or Toronto Maple Leafs; who’s on their team etc. But when the lights go down, and the action’s in play, actual children’s voices, and sounds from actual hockey games, are heard over the house speakers making the experience more immediate.
In the second section, things heat up. Cindy, the goalie, and the only girl in the group, (played by Hannah Ziss), has developed an affection for Pakistani immigrant ‘Ifty’, played by Suchiththa Desilva. Paul, played by Mark Kreder, has been arrested for protesting on behalf of gay bath houses, causing his best friend Dave, played by Dave White, to go into a name-calling rage. When Cindy is rejected by Ifty, she makes a pass at Steve, portrayed by Mark Kreder, and all hell breaks loose. As the plot heats up, so do the emotional reactions of the audience.
The acting is incredible. There isn’t a weak link among any of the actors. The crises and conflicts are real and understated – like a bomb about to go off. The bomb goes off in the third section, when the four remaining characters gather to say goodbye to Steve, who has died of an unexplained illness. Ifty has finally realized the true depths of Cindy’s feelings for him. Dave, a married man with six children, has made peace with Paul’s homosexuality. The conflicts have lessened. The wounds are in the process of healing and there’s a strong sense of community.
The sexual tension between Ziss and Suchiththa is palpable. The inner torment of Kreder as a man coming to terms with his homosexuality is spot on. And White conveys the earthiness of Dave with a strong sensitivity and authenticity. While the first act seemed a bit long, the next two acts more than made up for it. All the elements worked together to form a strong unified whole. Great show.
Pocket Rocket is playing at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener until April 30th.